You’ve heard of self-esteem and self-confidence before, of course, but have you heard of sexual self-esteem? It’s an aspect of your self-confidence that’s important to consider, especially as a survivor of child sexual abuse.
First, a definition. The Harvey Institute1 defines sexual self-esteem as positive regard for and confidence in the capacity to experience one’s sexuality in a satisfying and enjoyable way. There are several points this definition makes, let’s pull them out individually:
If you have healthy sexual self-esteem, you have a positive regard for the way you experience your sexuality. The way YOU experience YOUR sexuality. Don’t compare your wants, needs, desires, etc. with anyone else’s. If you are happy with the role and level that your sexual experiences are currently playing in your life, then that’s great! If not, take some time to figure out why and what you can do to change that. One caveat here: if your choice of sexual expression and experience is harming yourself or someone else in some way, then that is NOT healthy.
With healthy sexual self-esteem, you have confidence in your capacity (or ability) to experience your sexuality. Confidence is an important part of self-esteem as a whole, and if you don’t feel happy with yourself in other aspects, it may be difficult to have confidence in your sexual self. Physical confidence plays a role in this, as does confidence in your experience level, and confidence in your ability to communicate your desires to your partner or partners. If you lack self-confidence, consider examining ways you can improve it. Please know that you don’t need to look a certain way, be a certain weight to be worthy of fulfilling sexual experiences.
With healthy sexual self-esteem you’re able to find enjoyment and satisfaction in sexual experiences. When you choose to engage in (or refrain from) sexual experiences, you can enjoy the choice you make. That is one of your basic sexual rights. When you have good sexual self-confidence you know what you want and don’t want and are able to stand up for yourself if sexual experiences become uncomfortable or are no longer enjoyable and satisfying.
Sexual self-esteem is both complicated and personal. No two people experience it in the same way. If you are experiencing discord between your desire for sex, your feelings about sexuality and pleasure, and your ability to communicate, then you may want to take some time to think about sexual self-esteem. Some ways to do that are taking a walk, journaling, talking to a therapist, or bringing it up with a friend. You deserve to have healthy sexual self-confidence.
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